Imagination runs wild at half corked marathon.

Beetle JuiceLet’s set one thing straight right from the beginning. The Half Corked Marathon held in May that meanders through the vineyards of Oliver-Osoyoos is NOT a race! Nor is it really the distance of a true half marathon. What it is, is one of the most anticipated running events in Canada. If you are looking for a PB – you are missing the point of the run. If you are looking for an 18-kilometre-long party with your friends – sign up!

Inspired by the Medoc Marathon of France, the Oliver-Osoyoos Winery Association brought the idea of a run through the vineyards to the 40 regional wineries as a way to boost tourism in May and it worked. Now in its ten year, the annual sold out extravaganza is also an award winner. Last November it won the Event of the Year at the Canadian Tourism Awards.

The event is open to 1100 participants and those lucky runners are decided through a lottery system held in October.

The race weekend starts with a pre-race Primavera Party. Participants can purchase tickets for a feast at a long table lit by twinkling lights strung in the shade of a big tent on the expansive lawn of a winery. Gourmet pasta and wine is plentiful.

What? There’s no chip timer tied to my shoe?

The start of the run is quite casual. No real start line, no official clock, no timing chips, and no official bang to start your watch with. And, the first one across the finish line is not the winner! WHAT?

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Winning is for the people in the best costumes or those who create the best drama as they cross the finish line – like when Indiana Jones was crushed in the chutes by the giant rolling rock that dogged his every move along the entire route.

Forget pacing. No wait, it is all about pacing as you work through the 10-12 wine and food stations. You’ll sip red or white wine and sample the cuisine from the region while mingling with people who have taken up to six months to prepare their costume. Ballerinas, nuns, grapes, monsters, calendar girls, the entire crew from Gilligan’s Island to Beetle Juice and ghost busters – all serious contenders to win.

The route changes course once in awhile to include different wineries, but the current route starts at the Burrowing Owl Winery. Four different waves of runners are released to allow the participating wineries time to prepare for the runners emerging from the vines. The course winds down to the river and follows the trail to the next vineyard to link to the vineyards either on dirt roads or the secondary highway. There is a time limit of 3.5-hours for the slightly rolling route. When you cross the finish line at the Oliver Community Centre you can meet with friends to continue the party with more wine tasting.

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When I did this run, it took a few kilometres to realize it wasn’t a race. Settling into an easy pace and really stopping for the wine and food was way out of my runner’s headspace. But once I got over it, I had so much fun. The scenery is spectacular, the attitude of everyone is so friendly. And, the “Half Corked Marathon” etched wine glass handed to me at the end of the race brings a smile to my face every time I have a glass of wine.

Enter the race via lottery for NEXT YEAR

The participants for this May event were picked in October. What you need to do to enter for the 2019 run is sign up for the newsletter at www.oliverosoyoos.com.  It’s the only way to get your entries into the lottery held in October. Names are drawn, and lucky winners are offered two entries. That gives you time to up your mileage on the trails and start crafting that costume for the race, May 25, 2019.

If you go:

Sign up for the newsletter. The race is May 25, 2019.

Penticton Regional Airport is only 45 minutes from Osoyoos

Hotels book up fast so as soon as your name is drawn – book! Great picks include the Spirit Ridge at NK’MIP Resort and the Watermark Beach Resort.

There is no parking at the start area. Shuttles from four designated hotels in Osoyoos will take you to the start and back from the Oliver Community Centre.

More information at http://www.oliverosoyoos.com

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